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Rusney one step closer to Boston

Rusney Castillo took his next step up the ladder on Tuesday night, as he joined Triple-A Pawtucket for Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup Championship.

Here is what Rusney had to say in today’s pre-game session with the media:

“It’s been good. obviously it’s been a gradual step from one level to the other and it’s helped me find my game, which obviously I hadn’t played in a year and a half. It’s been extremely beneficial just to find myself as a player again.”

Biggest adjustment?  “You know it’s just getting back to that daily grind of playing every day and getting live Abs and just being able to make in-game adjustments is something he hadn’t done for a while.”

Moving from Gulf Coast to Eastern League and then International League?  “Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a difference from the rookie level up to the eastern league specifically in the pitching, not necessarily about the stuff but more the strike zone and the guys being around the zone a little bit more in the eastern league than in the GCL.”

Getting just one step from the Big Leagues: “You know, it’s human nature to think about the big leagues and playing for the Red Sox at some point. I definitely focus at every level that I’m at. I have my mind on the moment and improving and getting better.”

Adjusting to life in America? “I stay in the room, love music, learning the music of this country. Nothing that really sticks out. Just talking and meeting you people.”

Nice to have some good results in early Minors action? “Obviously I focus on the process which is the only thing he could control. But it’s also a good feeling to see results, to see the discipline and the hard work pay off.”

Bradley optioned; Betts returns

The Red Sox, after waiting patiently for Jackie Bradley Jr. to start hitting, optioned the rookie center fielder back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Mookie Betts, ranked by MLB.com as Boston’s No. 1 prospect, was recalled from Pawtucket on Monday to take Bradley’s spot on the roster.

This is the third stint for Betts with the Red Sox this season, but he could have a more defined role with Bradley’s spot in center field no available. Betts batted eighth against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson on Monday night at Fenway.

Brock Holt, who has played everywhere but pitcher and catcher this season, could also see more time in center in the coming weeks.

Bradley was originally supposed to start the season at Triple-A. But when Shane Victorino strained his right hamstring in the last game of Spring Training, Bradley was recalled for Opening Day.

The left-handed hitter had spent the entire season on the Major League roster until being informed after Sunday’s game that he was headed back to Triple-A.

Interestingly, the decision to send Bradley down came the same day he had two hits against the Astros, marking his first multi-hit game since July 25.

Though he has played spectacular defense, Bradley has struggled to sustain any kind of consistency at the plate.

He’s batting .216 with 19 doubles, two triples, one home run, 30 RBIs, 45 runs and 31 walks.

The Red Sox felt Bradley was coming around during a 51 at-bat stretch from July 5-25, when he hit .353 with a .411 on-base percentage.

But he spiraled downward at a rapid pace after that hot streak, hitting .115 with no extra basehits and just two walks over his last 52 at-bats.

The reason Bradley stuck around for so long despite the prolonged struggles was made obvious every time he made a great play with his glove or arm.

Bradley leads all Major League outfielders with 13 assists and eight double plays. Over the last two seasons, Bradley has appeared in 149 games and hit .210.

Betts, 21, has appeared in 13 games this season and hit .244 (10-for-41) with two doubles, one homer, two RBIs and six runs while splitting time between right and center field. He has hit .346 in 99 minor league games across Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Red Sox get their slugger

Though trading ace Jon Lester is undoubtedly hard for the Red Sox and their fans, it becomes a little easier when you factor in the return. By packaging Lester and Jonny Gomes, the Red Sox get Yoenis Cespedes, an outfielder with the type of power the club currently lacks beyond David Ortiz.

Though the arrival of Cespedes is probably too late to salvage Boston’s postseason hopes this season, he gives them a cornerstone for 2015, and perhaps beyond.

There’s at least a chance Cespedes will debut for the Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park in a rivalry matchup with the Yankees.

Cespedes, who is mainly a left fielder but has also started three games in center this season, came over from Cuba in 2012. The Red Sox had interest in him at that time before he signed with Oakland.

The 28-year-old Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 contact when he went to the Athletics. Per terms of his original contract, he can become a free agent if he isn’t re-signed by October 31, 2015, or five days after the last game Boston plays that season.

Though the Red Sox have long valued Lester as a pitcher, a teammate and a leader, his contract expires at the end of this season and the club feared losing him for nothing more than draft compensation.

To this point, Boston had been unable to find common ground on a contract with the lefty, who was masterful last October in helping guide Boston to a World Series title.

A few days ago, Lester told reporters he would still be open to re-signing with the Red Sox even if he got traded.

So there’s at least a chance Boston could have a 2015 roster that features Lester as the ace and Cespedes as a key bat.

For the short term, Lester and Gomes have a legitimate chance to play in the World Series for the second straight season. The Athletics own the best record in the Majors at 66-41.

The sight of watching Cespedes take aim at the Green Monster should bring some joy to Red Sox fans, who have been disenchanted at watching the defending World Series champions get off to a 48-60 start and fall 13 games out in the American League East.

Lester scratched from start; trade talks continue

The Red Sox did nothing to diminish rumors that Jon Lester will be traded to a contender when they scratched him from Wednesday night’s start against the Blue Jays.

“Yeah, Brandon Workman will start tomorrow,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “In light of all the uncertainty surrounding Jon Lester, it’s probably in everyone’s best interests that he does not make that start, so Brandon will be recalled. There will be a corresponding move roster-wise at some point tomorrow.”

By scratching Lester from his Wednesday start, the Red Sox could increase the urgency of their suitors to sweeten their offer in advance of Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.

Also, Lester becomes more attractive to a potential suitor if he can pitch immediately after a trade, rather than having to wait until Monday.

Numerous teams have talked to the Red Sox about Lester, and there was a lot of buzz about the Pirates on Tuesday. The Dodgers are another possible destination, though they’ve thus far been unwilling to part with the type of top prospects (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson) the Red Sox seek. The Marlins have also expressed interest, according to Jim Bowden of MLB Network radio.

While Red Sox veterans were still hoping the lefty would stay, they were bracing for the possibility of his exit.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” said Dustin Pedroia, who came up with Lester through the farm system and has won a pair of World Series titles with him. “We’re not teammates – we’re family. It’s something you don’t like going through. It makes you feel worse. We don’t want to be in this position. I know a lot of guys feel that if you play up to your capability … we should be adding instead of subtracting. Hopefully he’s here.”

Lester-Kemp not likely

Though Jon Lester could well be traded by Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, two sources told MLB.com that the Red Sox are not interested in acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers in exchange for the lefty, contrary to a rumor that surfaced Sunday.

In fact, there has yet to be a lot of dialogue between the two teams, though the Dodgers, with World Series aspirations, could certainly become a player for lefty. If the Dodgers were successful in getting Lester, they would have the most impressive front three in the game, featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Lester.

If the Red Sox are to trade Lester, they would need at least one top-level prospect. Would the Dodgers be willing to part with center field prospect Joc Pederson? If so, talks could heat up quickly. But there’s been no indication to this point Los Angeles would include Pederson.

Though Lester certainly warrants a top prospect or prospects in return, he amounts to a two-month rental. Lester is eligible for free agency at season’s end, and he indicated that even if he does get traded, his top desire would still be to return to Boston as a free agent.

Lester has been red-hot of late, pitching perhaps the best baseball of his career. He is scheduled to start for the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Fenway against the Blue Jays, the final game before the trade deadline.

All eyes on Lester

A scenario that seemed unfathomable when the season started — the Red Sox contemplating a trade of ace Jon Lester — can no longer be ruled out. With the defending World Series champions close to fading out of contention and Lester a free agent at season’s end, Boston general manager Ben Cherington will at least listen to offers regarding the lefty, who has been red-hot over the last few weeks.

“I’m not going to comment on any particular player,” said Cherington. “We have to talk to teams. We have to listen to what teams are looking to do and figure out from those conversations what opportunities are out there. Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible for April of 2015. And so that might mean doing very little, it might mean doing a bunch of stuff. It might be between that. I don’t know yet. But you guys know how we feel about Jon.”

Interestingly, Lester said he would harbor no hard feelings toward the Red Sox if they traded him and he would still be interested in trying to re-sign with Boston in November even if traded in July.

“We’re certainly happy that statement reflects how he feels about the relationship. We feel good about our relationship with him. Our position hasn’t changed: We’d certainly love for Jon to be here in 2015,” said Cherington.

Peavy ‘understands’ trade talks

Twice in his career, Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy has been traded just prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Peavy is realistic enough to know that a third deal could happen before this month ends.

Peavy (1-7, 4.64 ERA) has struggled this season and so have the Red Sox, who entered Tuesday trailing by 10 games in the American League East.

“We all our professionals and understand this time of year,” said Peavy. “At the same time, our focus is here and trying to figure out a way, me personally, to get better, for Saturday night in Houston. And to help my teammates get prepared to win tonight.”

There have been rumblings that the Cardinals, who pursued Peavy last summer before he went to the Red Sox, could be a destination. One reason it might make sense for Boston to move Peavy is that it would open up a roster spot for Rubby De La Rosa, the hard-throwing righty who has been dominant at times when given the chance.

“This will be my third time my name has really been thrown out there with a legitimate chance to be traded, and I’ve been traded twice previous,” said Peavy. “I do understand what this is like. I don’t have any anxiety if it were to happen. I’m going to handle things because I know the whole process. Like I said, it’s a difficult one.”

Even though Peavy is the ultimate professional, it is unsettling for any player to wonder if their life will be uprooted in the middle of the season.

“My life is in Boston – everything I have,” said Peavy. “And to pick and move to a new city where you don’t know anybody, it’s challenging times for anybody. But that being said, and having been through it, there’s no anxiety about any of that. I really won’t comment on anything in the future until really something happens because it does nobody any good.”

On July 31, 2009, Peavy was traded from the Padres to the White Sox. And last year, his deal to Boston happened on July 30.

“I’ll handle it the way I handled it last year and the way I’ve handled it before,” said Peavy. “Just try to continually not lose focus on the task at hand. The task at hand is to come here to work, to get better. It’s to get ready to win your next time out. We all certainly understand the situation, the times we’re in. At the end of the day, it’s not our job to be wrapped up in that.

“We answer questions when asked about it. We certainly are kept abreast through our representation and good dialogue with the front office and to have an idea what’s going on with your situation. But at the end of the day, it’s not in our control. Put your head down and work. That’s what I’ve done the past few years and if something happens, you get called in and just go from there. At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to comment on any kind of heresy and any kind of rumors. It is what it is. My head is here.”

And until Peavy hears anything different, he plans on pitching for the Red Sox against the Astros on Saturday in Houston.

Peavy takes pride in pitching for the Red Sox, and that includes the good times like last year and even the struggles of this season.

“I’ve said it since I’ve got here,” said Peavy. “This place, being in this room, is home to me. There’s a lot of people here in the year that I’ve spent here in Boston that are very, very special to me and that’s on the field and off the field. When you experience what we all got a chance to go through last year, you become extremely tight.

“And when you go through times like these, you find out who your buddies are and who’s with you and who’s in your corner. I love this place and I’ve said that since Spring Training — I’ve always wanted to be here.”

Though this season has been a long way from the Cy Young season Peavy had for the Padres in 2007, he cautions people not to give up on him.

“I’ve got a lot of baseball left in me and good baseball too,” said Peavy. “So I’m just going to try to work and be a pro. That’s the only way I know how to be, to be the best teammate I can be and the be the best employee I can be and that’s doing everything I can do to get myself better to help the Red Sox win.”

Cherington on the state of reeling Red Sox

For the second time in 15 days, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington expressed faith in his highly-underachieving team and forecasts an in-season turnaround that may not have to occur because of blockbuster trades.

Trades aren’t the be all-end-all at this point:  “I don’t know about moves. We’re obviously not happy with where we are. Ultimately, we’re 18-25, that’s not up to our standards, that’s not where we want to be ultimately. It’s up to me to find a way to make it better. We still believe it’s gonna get better. We believe we’ve got a very good team ahead of us this year. Most of that is still going to come from within with guys here performing, getting back to a level they’re accustomed to and then if we can do that and start playing a little better and win some games and hang in there, we’ll try to find anyway we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on. At this point, this early in the season, we’re still just mostly focused on the guys that are here and finding a way to play better with the guys that are here.”

Pressed again about making moves, Cherington offered this:  “I think there’s a need to play better and there’s the need to find ways to get better and all sorts of ways and again, that’s my responsibility. Not saying we wouldn’t consider moves. It’s just that this early in the season, typically, you’re sort of talking other teams into doing things and that doesn’t always leave you in the best position to make deals. I wouldn’t rule it out but, we’ll see. Because of that, look, we’re gonna get Victorino back, we’re going to get hopefully our core lineup out there more consistently moving forward and we believe in that core lineup and that core group of players and we believe we have a lot of wins in us with that core, without adding to it. if we can add to it, whether it’s sooner or later or towards the deadline in a way that makes sense, of course we’re going to work to do it in a way that makes sense. Again, that’s up to me. But just mostly focused still on the guys who are here.”

Injuries no excuse: “I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. We’ve had some injuries. Every team has injuries. I think our job is to be good enough and deep enough to play through the injuries and still win games and hang in there through the tougher times. So I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. It would be better not to have injuries. I don’t know. it’s a variety of things. I think we would have guessed coming into the year that in all likelihood we would face a little more adversity this year than we did last year. it’s just the way baseball goes and we have in different ways. Offensively, we just haven’t clicked in any sort of consistent way. we’ve been in most games because we’ve been running pretty good pitchers out there most often whether it’s the starters or the bullpen mostly keeping us in games. We just haven’t clicked offensively and I can’t point to one thing. for the reason, we know we have to get better. We believe we will. We’re not there yet.”

How much longer can they go with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr.? “You know, we’ve got to play better and you’re talking about two very different players there so in jackie’s case, he’s playing really good defense, he’s grinding, he’s making offensive adjustments. He’s here working every day to get better.He’s a very important guy for us and we feel he’s the right guy to be our center fielder. In Grady’s case, we’ve seen flashes, as I said 10 days ago. I think he would tell you he hasn’t’ been as consistent as he’d like to be. Hasn’t made the impact as he’d like to. Look, we’re all in this together, we know collectively we’ve got to get better. We all have to perform better, that starts with me. And we just have to make that happen. we’re not ready to proclaim that this has to happen or that has to happen or there needs to be any particular move. We just have to play better.”

Pressed again on Sizemore:  “He’s here. He’s one of our 25 guys. John’s trying to put him in positions to succeed. We believe Grady Sizemore is going to be a good Major League player again. We’re going to do whatever we can to help him be that guy here. We’ll see. We just have to play better, the whole team has to play better. I have to do my part. If we all do that, we’ll look up and things will look a lot better 10 days from now.”

On the struggling offense of the outfield:   “Well it’s still evolving you know? We came into the year obviously thinking in left field we were going to have something analogous to last year, a combination with Gomes and Nava or some other left-handed hitter. In right field we certainly expected Victorino out there, we hope that he will be out there soon. And in spring training the question was on center field and ultimately Grady played his way onto the team and then we had an injury so Jackie ended up on the team and his defense was so good that he kind of takes over. Look we expected Jackie to be our center fielder of the future back this winter, we just didn’t know what date that was going to start on. I don’t think anything has really changed there. We just haven’t had that corner group out there consistently and we haven’t had the production out of the corners that we thought we would and need to have.

Cherington didn’t say if part of the agreement of Drew’s contract was that he be recalled after the minimum 10 days were used in his Minor League option: “I don’t want to get into the specifics of our discussion before signing him but we definitely felt like given where he was physically at the time of the signing that it wouldn’t take him a long time in the minor leagues to be able to help our team. There’s a different between being at maximum capacity and full speed with perfect timing and all that, there’s a difference between that and helping a major league team. And we felt like Stephen drew made us a more complete roster, a better, deeper roster, even if he was still working on some things. So we signed him with the understanding that assuming he physically checked out that he’d be on the team son, as soon as we could and that’s the way it turned out. We don’t have any regrets for that. We also knew we might have to manage his playing time a little bit early on, so it’s not unexpected that he’s getting a day here and there. All the reasons we signed him are still in place and we’ll see how it works out.”

In hindsight, did  Cherington need more outfield depth going into the season? “I guess you can never have enough right? We felt we did. There was a combination of guys including Nava, Carp, Gomes, Victorino, Bradley, Sizemore, Brentz and down the line we felt we had enough good players, enough good options to be deep enough in the outfield. There has been a combination of underperformance to some of those guys and injuries to others that kind of tapped into that a little bit, so it showed up. Ultimately it’s my responsibility to figure that out and get better. We felt that we did have enough depth. To this point we haven’t gotten the production out of the outfield that we need to. We still feel like we can and it’s up to us to figure that out.

Cherington was stunned to see it written somewhere that the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew because of pressure in the media, and staunchly denied it: “False. I was really surprised to see that today. We know Stephen Drew really well. We signed Stephen Drew because I made a recommendation to ownership to sign Stephen Drew. We had been talking internally for a little while, and then on a Friday, our third baseman got hurt, and we expected, based on the initial evaluation, that Will might miss a significant amount of time. At that point, during that game, we were 20-20, and scratching and clawing for every win and certainly right in the mix in the AL East. We had known, if there was an area on the team that we wanted to add some depth to, it was the left side of the infield. It wasn’t a reflection on any of the players we had. We want as many good players as we can for each spot. It happened to be that Will got hurt, Stephen Drew was still out there, he was a free agent, and we felt like, if we didn’t sign him, we might be in position to have to make a trade at some point and give up talent to address, potentially, an area of need, so we have a guy who we trust, who we like, who’s a good player, who’s a trustworthy player, who’s been here and done that who’s available to sign without giving talent, so we did it. I made that recommendation, and I would make that recommendation again.”

Trade Jon Lester if the team falls out of contention and there is no progress with his contract situation? “We haven’t even thought about that. Jon’s focus is to go out and pitch every five days and help us win, and he’s done a very good job of that this year. We’re trying to support him in any way we can. Our position hasn’t changed. We hope to have a conversation again about his contract. We’d love to find a way to keep him here. But right now we’re just trying to win games and stay in this thing. I believe we will. When we do, we’re going to want Jon Lester pitching for us down the stretch.”

John Lackey might retire rather than pitch for the player minimum that his contract dictates next year? “No. I have not heard anything about it. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t know — I’m not sure I’m the person to respond to it. This is more of a question for John, I guess. But I know that, the way he’s pitching right now and what I know of him as a competitor and how much he likes being in the clubhouse and how important it is for him to compete and be a guy, I would certainly expect him to want to keep playing, and he certainly looks like a guy who’s going to keep pitching for quite some time. I haven’t heard anything about that, and obviously our expectation is that he’s going to be here.”

 On Clay Buchholz: “Physically, he says he feels good, and we were able to identify a couple of things in the delivery that he thinks and we think can help him. It’s likely a gradual thing, right? It’s not going to be — typically players don’t go from struggling to lights out overnight, but there are some tangible things that he’s identified that will help him, and he’s been doing that. He’s been working on that. He’ll pitch in the minor leagues a little bit to start, and we’ll see where we are.”

Burleson on Zimmer: “Best manager I ever played for”

Former Red Sox shortstop Rick Burleson was saddened to hear that Don Zimmer, the man he referred to as “the best manager I ever played for”, died on Wednesday.

Here is the Rooster on Zim, who managed the Red Sox from 1976-80 and also had two stints as a Boston coach.

“It was a wonderful experience. I was a rookie when he came over there in ’74 to coach third and I got called up basically May 1 of ’74 and he was there and of course I had him that spring. All the players loved him. Then he became manager, I think it was middle of ’76. I was with him from ’76 through ’80 as a player. So five years as a player, and seven years total.”

Burleson played for Darrell Johnson, Jim Fregosi and Gene Mauch, among some others, but he thinks Zimmer was the best he played for.

“He was the best manager I ever played for, without a doubt. Fregosi was wonderful when I was here for a brief time in ’81 when he was with the Angels. Zim was a player’s manager. He knew the game really well. The thing that you knew with him was that you were going to be in the lineup and basically where you were going to hit pretty much every day. We had kind of a set deal there in Boston in those years and he just expected you to go out there and give it your all. And that’s basically what we tried to do and he was outstanding.”

But Zimmer was more than just a manager to Burleson. He was family.

“This was a guy, when I was in Spring Training in ’77, when he was the manager, he asked if he could babysit so that my wife and I could go out to dinner by ourselves. Him and his wife came over and babysat our oldest boy Tyler.”

Burleson marveled at the fact Zimmer worked in baseball — and only in baseball.

“He probably spent 60-some years in the game and he told me at one time he never had a job in his whole life other than baseball. I don’t think there’s many people you can count on your hand that can say that. We all have to do something at some point. So I mean, I feel for his wife Soot and their family and his daughter and son. It’s a sad day to see that happen. He had a great life. He did what he wanted to do. I don’t think you can ask for any more than that.”

In Burleson’s mind, Zimmer’s door was always open.

“He was helpful, he was very helpful as a coach. And then as a manager, he was a good leader. That’s all any player wants, is for someone to be honest with them and there to talk to when you need to talk to him. He was always the guy.He will be missed and he was definitely one of our favorites here in this family, that’s for sure.”

Napoli: “I feel great now”

Caught up with Mike Napoli this morning, and the time off has definitely done the big slugger some good. John Farrell said the first baseman will return the first day he is eligible — on June 8 at Detroit.

Though Napoli is sidelined with a left fourth finger sprain – an injury he originally suffered in Chicago on April 15 – he was dealing with a variety of maladies before finally being placed on the disabled list on May 25.

“It wasn’t just the finger,” said Napoli. “I was dealing with a lot of stuff. It was probably the best thing for me. I was going to keep on trying to grind it out, grind it out, but this is probably the best time for me just to get everything fixed, get better so I’m playing somewhat healthy. I think it was just time to do it.”

And the decision was easier for Napoli to accept with the Red Sox going on a tear with him out of the lineup. The club had a six-game winning streak entering Sunday.

“Seeing them playing like this and winning definitely helps,” said Napoli. “I’m concentrating on getting better and coming back and trying to help us.”

What was bothering Napoli aside from his finger?

“Toe issue, calf, hammies,” Napoli said. “My whole body was beat up. I’m feeling great now. I’m just getting treatment.”

And the finger, which he mangled backwards on a head-first slide in Chicago?

“It’s getting better. The swelling is starting to go down,” Napoli said. “I can actually fit my finger in my batting glove now. I don’t have to cut it off.”

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